When we focus so much on our bodies—berating them, hating them, changing them, worrying about them—we naturally focus less on our lives. We naturally focus less on our relationships, on our interests and passions, on our ideas and our creative work. We naturally focus less on our values.
We do this because our time, attention and energy are finite. There’s only so much to go around. We do this because we convince ourselves that we don’t deserve happiness or nourishment when we haven’t lost weight, when we haven’t followed the (diet, fitness) rules, when we haven’t been “good.”
What if you shift your focus?
What if you stop devoting so much time, energy and attention into weighing your food and counting your calories and instead focus on discovering or prioritizing your values? What if you focus on brainstorming ideas and projects? What if you skip the cycling class (which bores you to death) and instead take walks around the park, snapping photos of the stunning colors of fall?
What if you throw out your scale and replace it with a notebook and pen? Instead of letting numbers dictate your mood (and your self-worth), you decide to take a few minutes to explore and jot down your thoughts and feelings. What if you stop solely eating foods on your meal plan and instead get creative in the kitchen?
What if the time you spent scrolling social media, feeling like you don’t measure up, was spent instead on sketching, writing, singing, learning, laughing?
What if you start the day with a dance party instead of the blaring of a 5 a.m. alarm to a gym class you don’t even want to take? What if all that time, attention and energy spent wondering and worrying why you aren’t losing weight (even though you’re eating the “right” amount of calories and the “right” kind of foods your nutritionist prescribes, and working out as much as your trainer recommends) were instead spent on wondering about interesting subjects and asking interesting questions?
What if we refocus on the activities, acts and people that make us come alive? What if we explore other parts of ourselves? What if we nurture our spirits, our souls?
When we focus on our weight, shape or size, on the numbers on the scale, inside our clothes and on the tape measure, our lives, our days, become so small and narrow. We become more and more rigid, maybe even obsessive. Our curiosity dampens and dims. But when we refocus, the possibilities are endless. Our senses sharpen. We truly feed ourselves. We grow.
I know that this is complex. I know that simply telling yourself to refocus may not work.
Acknowledge that you might not feel good about your body. Acknowledge that you yearn to change it. Acknowledge that dieting is tough to stop—especially in today’s society, where thin is in and “clean eating” dominates. Acknowledge your mixed feelings and thoughts. And then fill your day with joyful, nourishing things. Read the books you want to read. Hang out with the people you want to hang out with. Pursue the projects that challenge, inspire and educate you. Pursue the questions that intrigue and fascinate you.
Remind yourself that life is so much more than points, calorie counts, sizes, and weight. Remind yourself, again, that the possibilities are endless—not after you change your appearance, but actually right now.